A Growing Wealth Of Craft Beer For Houston

"The response has been greater than we could have anticipated."

Dave Graham is marketing director for one of the city’s newest craft beer labels, Karbach Brewing Company.

Karbach BreweryKarbach opened for business September 1st, 2011 with what they thought was an aggressive goal of reaching 100 clients in a year. Nearly six months in and they’ve far surpassed that goal and are at brewing capacity. So I guess you could say they’ve hit on something.

"The city of Houston has been a great craft beer drinking town for a long time. Now that there’s more local players, not just us, I think any of the brewers you’ll talk to will say the same they’re really responding to drinking local craft product."

Beer blogger for the Houston Chronicle and author of Houston Beer: A Heady History of Brewing in the Bayou City, Ronnie Crocker has been following this craft beer trend.

"People were looking for something with a little more character, more flavor, more diversity and I think that’s what’s been driving the craft beer boom that’s been going on nationwide. Texas seemed a little late to that revolution. But it’s definitely an explosion right now, that’s not an understatement."

Nationally 250 breweries opened in 2011 and locally the craft beer scene has welcomed four. Before it was a pretty empty nest that St. Arnold’s was keeping warm but now Crocker says even they’re riding this new wave.

"St. Arnold's moved into the bigger brewery. Karbach was really exciting because they had a famous brewer from Denver come down to lead that effort. Katy got one out in the suburbs and now Buffalo Bayou and Eighth Wonder getting ready to come on line."

Now when it comes to beer a lager is a lager is a lager.

However there are two things that distinguish craft breweries from each other and from larger commercial breweries. One is taste. A basic beer is made from malted wheat or barley, yeast, hops and water.

Karbach’s Dave Graham says it’s what you do with those ingredients that makes the difference, for example, their Weisse Versa Wheat beer.

Karbach Brewery kegs"When you’re using the Hefeweizen yeast which gives you that banana, clove, nutmeg aroma and flavor, but then we’re spicing it with citrus peel and coriander to dry it out."

The other thing is how you market yourself. Karbach have chosen to come up with quirky names like Sympathy for the Lager and Rodeo Clown. And each beer has a little story written on the side of the can, like this one for Rodeo Clown.

"It’s a job and a hazardous one at that. Benefits you ask? I hardly think so, but the show must go on so it’s with bravado that the rodeo clown takes his place in the arena lights. Whether or not he’s insane is not important right now. It’s with grit and intensity that the clown steps into the path of almost certain destruction."

With all these breweries springing up Ronnie Crocker says it’s an exciting time for craft beer. How many of these will be around in twenty years, he doesn’t know. But for craft beer lovers right now, there’s a growing wealth of choice in the city of Houston.

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